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Never Underestimate The American Spirit

By:  Greg Allen  Special to GCN   2/1/15
Date: 2/1/15

My wife and I were eating lunch the other day at a restaurant.  Sitting in a booth next to us were an older couple and the gentleman wore a Vietnam Veteran cap.  During their meal a young boy, about ten or so, walked up to the man and said, “Excuse me sir.  I see that you’re a veteran.  I just want to thank you for your service for our country.”  The Vet shook the hand of the boy to say: “Thank you young man.”  Needless to say, the couple were quite taken back by that.  When they looked at me I claimed:  “His parents have taught him well.”

It’s a safe bet to say an overwhelming majority of us have friends or relatives who served in the military. I met my wife while serving in the Air Force overseas.

My father served in the Navy, but never saw combat.  My uncle, a Marine, only made it a few yards up Omaha Beach before he was cut down by enemy fire during World War II.  My Aunt, his widow, married his brother to retain the same last name. Their offspring, a boy, also became a Marine and served in Vietnam.  
I conducted extensive interviews with several World War II veterans, Korean War veterans, and civilians who recounted their lives back then in preparation for writing my second novel “War of the Heart.”  From my accounts of conversations with the veterans the type of public sentiment during the antiwar movement of the 60s, and today, didn’t exist in the 40’s.  There was rationing of things like cooking essentials, metal, and rubber back then.  Over and over again, I heard the same claim repeated: “Everyone just pitched in … it was the war effort.”

But all that changed during Vietnam and protesting became fashionable.  Those young and impressionable minds are now grown.  Many of those protesters now occupy positions of authority in government and teach at universities throughout America.  Some even migrated to the great state of California, to a place called Hollywood. 

The movie “American Sniper” is experiencing unprecedented box office success, setting records, and leaving its critics baffled.  I’d venture to say they underestimated the American spirit which resides in us.  That definition could well be defined as morality, patriotism, freedom, liberty, or a number of other quintessential things.

American Sniper is a 2014 American biographical war film directed by Clint Eastwood and is based on the book “American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History” about Chris Kyle.

Eastwood recently said: “I was a child growing up during World War II.  That was supposed to be the one to end all wars.  And four years later, I was standing at the draft board being drafted during the Korean conflict.”

Mr. Eastwood appeared at the 2012 Republican National Convention and performed a hypothetical empty chair dialogue routine with an absent President Obama - he later encountered a great deal of scrutiny in doing so.  However, his boldness, then and now, at age 84, is paying off.

Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle, nicknamed "Legend" for his many kills, grew up in Texas. His father taught him how to hunt.  Years later he enlisted in the Navy and eventually became a Seal sniper.

With 255 kills, 160 of which were officially confirmed by the Department of Defense, Kyle was the deadliest marksman in U.S. military history.
 
After four tours of duty, Kyle came home.  He was on edge and unable to adjust fully to civilian life.  He said he was "haunted by all the guys he couldn't save."

On February 2, 2013, Kyle was killed by a veteran he was trying to help.  Thousands of people stood in line along the highway for his funeral procession. Thousands more attended his memorial service at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas.

Critics have called the film Pro-War on Terror and Pro-Republican. Clint Eastwood said: "That’s a stupid analysis" and that the film has nothing to do with political parties.

Detractors like filmmaker Michael Moore have called Chris Kyle a coward.  Comedian Bill Maher claimed: "He's a psychopath patriot, and we love him."

Some do indeed lack the American spirit, but they should never underestimate the fortitude of those who do.

Greg Allen’s column, Thinkin’ Out Loud, is published bi-monthly.  He’s an author, nationally syndicated columnist and the founder of Builder of the Spirit in Jamestown, Indiana, a non-profit organization aiding the poor.  He can be reached at www.builderofthespirit.org or follow him on Twitter  @GregAllencolumn 
© Greg Allen ~ All Rights Reserved


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